The girl-soldiers stood about carelessly, there in the snow among the silver birches and pines. They looked like boys in overcoats and boots and tall wool caps, leaning at ease there on their heavy rifles. Some were only fifteen years of age. Some had been servants, some saleswomen, stenographers, telephone operators, dressmakers, workers in the fields, students at the university, dancers, laundresses. And a few had been born into the aristocracy. They came, too, from all parts of the huge, sprawling Empire, these girl-soldiers of the Battalion of Deathand there were Cossack girls and gypsies among themgirls from Finland, Courland, from the Urals, from Moscow, from Siberiafrom North, South, East, West. There were Jewesses from the Pale and one Jewess from America in the ranks; there were Chinese girls, Poles, a child of fifteen from Trebizond, a Japanese girl, a French peasant lass; and there were Finns, too, and Scandinaviansall with clipped hair under the astrakhan capssturdy, well shaped, soldierly girls who handled their heavy rifles without effort and carried a regulation equipment as though it were a sheaf of flowers. Their commanding officer was a woman of forty. She loudged in front of the battalion in the snow, consulting with half a dozen officers of a man's regiment. The colour guard stood grouped around the battalion colours, where its white and gold folds swayed languidly in the breeze, and clots of virgin snow fell upon it, shaken down from the pines by the cannonade. Estridge gazed at them in silence. In his man's mind one thought dominatedthe immense pity of it all. And there was a dreadful fascination in looking at these girl soldiers, whose soft, warm flesh was so soon to be mangled by shrapnel and slashed by bayonets.